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“A great deal of time and intellectual effort are wasted in the world because what is false seems gr

What do you believe?

No, really. What do you believe?

About children.

About school.

About your role, as an adult, as a parent, as a teacher.

What would success look like for you?

That all children should read by four years old?

That the parents of the children in your classroom should applaud you for your work?

That the golden bead material, or, even better, the test tubes should be delights for the children, off the shelf every day, increasingly complicated equations tossed between children like jokes around a campfire?

What do you believe?

No, really. What do you believe?

If you didn’t have to worry about the standards?

If you didn’t have to worry about retention?

What do you really believe about the nature of childhood? About the value of your work as a teacher? About the value of the children’s experiences, not as “scholars” or “learners” but just as humans?

If you could choose how your work was measured, would it be in the academic achievement of the children or in the strength of the community they build? Would it be in how many children learned to read, or in how many learned to care for each other? Would it be in the individualism and competitiveness of the children, or in their capacity to build each other up? In their self-determination or in their capacity for justice?

“A great deal of time and intellectual effort are wasted in the world because what is false seems great and what is true seems slight.”

This is not a call to arms.

This is a call to peace.

If we focus our minds, our spirits and our energies on being the best, on being faster, smarter, more accomplished, more prestigious, more elite, we will necessarily impart to the children thee same values. That their worth is measurable by their ability to match our goals. That their horizons should be set by the ones we create for them. That their contribution is only as useful as their ability to out-do what we have done.

Of course they will out-do us. They will be more than whatever we have been ourselves. The question is not whether, but in what way?

Will they be more selfish? More self-indulgent? More competitive? More commodified?

Or will they be more peaceful? More motivated to good? More just? More kind?

What is true? Have you chosen Montessori because of its academic strengths or because you want to help the children change the world? Have you chosen Montessori because you want them to be better at what we are, or because you believe they will create a better-something-else, a better that we have not yet even imagined?

Name what you believe. Name what is true to you. And then use that naming to focus your time and intellect, to focus your teaching, to focus your advocacy, to focus your work. In this practice of nonintervention, let the things you believe to be true be the basis for what action you do take. The work is too important. The time is too short. Don’t waste it.

* A response to Chapter 14: Written Language, The Discovery of the Child. M. Montessori

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